CWG’s unpaid bills: Australia complains, Kalmadi has different take


New Delhi/Melbourne: After Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd raised the matter of unpaid bills of Australian firms for their work during the Delhi Commonwealth Games, India scrambled to save face, with the sports minister asking officials to sort out the issue within 10 days.

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Australia Thursday raised the issue of millions of dollars owed to its firms by the CWG Organising Committee with visiting External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in Melbourne, who assured that he would take it up with the sports ministry.

“It has been brought to my notice… As soon as I go back, I will take it up with ministry of sports,” Krishna addressing reporters with Rudd on his side said.

A few hours later in New Delhi, newly-appointed Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Ajay Maken said that his first order after taking charge was directing officials to solve this matter within 10 days.

“I have directed the sports secretary to speak to the government nominees in the Organising Committee to thoroughly verify legitimate payments and I have given them 10 days time to sort out the issue,” Maken told reporters.

“It has been three months since the CWG happened. If we delay it more, then there will be more problems. I want to solve this issue within this timeframe. This is my first directive after taking charge as the sports minister.”

Rudd said that he had raised the issue in talks with Krishna, who is on a three-day visit which began Tuesday.

“We did discuss these matters. We in Australia are comfortable about Indian government’s responses about the process we have in hand, which is a complicated one on the domestic matters in India itself. But these matters are well in hand,” Rudd told reporters.

He said the Australian government will work with the companies to assure that proper payments are made to them.

Ric Birch, who was the mastermind behind the opening and closing ceremonies, said that they have not yet been paid for the two events on Oct 3 and 14 last year.

“I supplied the services of 12 people over the course of the year leading up to the Games, which included choreographers, producers and myself as executive producer,” he said.

He went on to say that he had never faced such problems while working on Commonwealth Games or the Olympics in Mexico or China, Barcelona or Los Angeles.

“We had an anagram which came about by the ceremonies that everyone was heartily sick of the Delhi Organising Committee so we decided that India stood for ‘India – I’ll never do it again’,” he said.

Not just the private sector, the Australian Commonwealth Games Association is owed more than $100,000 in travel subsidies, said.

Perry Crosswhite, the association’s chief executive who is also pursuing the Delhi Organising Committee, said: “Besides all the usual letters and calls and so forth, we’re taking the matter up with our international body, which is the Commonwealth Games Federation who are very concerned about it as well.”

“We’ve also (spoken) with the Indian high commissioner to see whether she could help as well and she’s trying to.”

Meanwhile, Games OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi released a statement in Delhi Thursday evening where he claimed that 85 percent of contracted amount to Ric Birch had already been released, while the rest had been pending due to “under-performance” as raised by the event’s creative director, Bharat Bala.

“Birch was not available at the crucial juncture of the final preparations for the closing ceremony as he had left after the opening ceremony of the Games and there have been instances of incorrect advice that cost the Organising Committee time and resources. The remaining 15 percent has been held back and Spectak Productions informed accordingly,” he said.

On payments due to two other Australian firms, Howard and Sons and Norwest, Kalmadi said that full payment was being released after getting proper taxation advice and receiving original invoices.

Besides, the OC chairman asserted that full payments had been made on travel grants to 39 of 71 members of the Commonwealth Games Federation, with the remaining having already got 71 percent of their dues. “After verification of cost of damages in Games Village, variation in team size, recoveries on account of security deposit/rate care items etc, the remaining amount is being released this week,” he said.

Kalmadi asserted that it was “normal practice” for final payments to be released only after getting the complete reports from the functional area heads. “Organising Committee is aware of the responsibilities of releasing all payments on time and all efforts in this direction are being made,” he said.